Fischer and Blomstedt: Phenomenal Violinist and Phenomenal Conductor

30/06/2018

Mendelssohn, Mahler: Julia Fischer (violin), Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich / Herbert Blomstedt (conductor), Tonhalle Maag, Zurich, 29.6.2018. (JR)

Herbert Blomstedt (c) Martin Lengemann

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto op.64

Mahler – Symphony No.1

In a few days Herbert Blomstedt will be an astounding 91. In addition to being a very fine and much admired conductor, he is now also a phenomenon. I can think of many conductors who – wrongly in my view – keep going despite being very ill, frail or even semi-paralysed (I recall seeing the last appearances of Karajan, hardly able to move in his corset). Today’s audience does not, in the main – and I know I am generalising – want to see very old men on the podium, however great they may once have been. Blomstedt remains a remarkable exception; he still conducts with the vigour of someone much younger, and more importantly his interpretations are full of energy. He has hardly slowed down tempi; he still has plenty to say in the music he conducts (and I am told he talks a great deal at rehearsals, too). He can still conduct a Mahler symphony (even if it is ‘merely’ the relatively short First) with a concerto in the first half: repeat the concert on three consecutive nights, and stand throughout.

Blomstedt brought us two works with an obvious connection to Leipzig, where Blomstedt has lived and worked as Principal Conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mendelssohn of course lived, worked and died there (aged 38); Mahler had also worked in Leipzig for many years as second conductor at the Opera and wrote his first symphony there.

Julia Fischer was the soloist, playing a modern violin, not her 1742 Guadagnini. The modern instrument is from the workshop of Philipp Augustin, made in 2011 in Staufen im Breisgau, just south of Freiburg (the alchemist Doktor Faustus is said to have come from Staufen). It does not always have to be an old instrument as Julia Fischer proved with her crisp-sounding modern instrument; I believe the Vienna Philharmonic provides ‘ordinary’ violins to all its players.

Back to the music: the Mendelssohn is probably the world’s favourite and most performed violin concerto and it deserves to be. It is full of melody and gives the soloist every chance to display his/her talents. These were much in evidence with Julia Fischer; she was simply perfect. Fischer made the work sound fresh and new, even though we all knew every bar, almost every note. In the cadenza you could have heard a pin drop. We were rewarded with an encore, a contemplative Bach Sarabande, which cleansed and purified the palate after the thicker textures of Mendelssohn.

For this concert, Blomstedt seated the violins antiphonally, a sort of stereo effect, but aesthetically unpleasing as the second violins face the back of the hall; and their sound also seems to fade away too. Blomstedt occasionally chose a slower than usual tempo for parts of the Mahler symphony, for example the offstage trumpets. The second movement, Scherzo, was joyous, but also with measured gait. ‘Frère Jacques’ was played with impeccable intonation (it is not always thus, deceptively tricky for the double bass) before the great cymbal crash leads into the thrilling Finale. Blomstedt kept his powder dry until the very end when he asked the horn section to stand for the final peroration. At this stage I recall seeing Michael Tilson Thomas kneel before the LSO, no chance of Blomstedt doing that. This was a very fine performance, Blomstedt, even at his great age, still has plenty to say. As he walked off after much cheering (including from the orchestra members who clearly revere him and call him ‘Blomi’), he held up the score and patted it, humble man that he is, to say that it was not he who should be congratulated, it was all in the score. This high quality concert brought the Tonhalle Orchestra’s season to a perfect and satisfying close.

John Rhodes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Northampton’s 13th Malcolm Arnold Festival – 13 to 14 October 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • NEW! This October Carlos Acosta Returns to London to Celebrate Thirty Years in Dance __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Chamber Music Festival October 2018 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! LMTO Bring Camelot Back to the West End for the First Time in 30 Years on 6 October __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! The Roman River Music Festival Returns This September __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Appreciation Talks this Autumn from Helen Astrid __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Major Work by Stanford to be Premiered – 99 Years Late! __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! How Our Grandparents Decided How We Should Listen to Music __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month